Constipation - A Disease or a Problem?
Constipation is not a disease, but a symptom. When bowel movements occur less than three times a week, the individual is said to be constipated. Bowel movements during this time are very painful. Almost all of us experience this problem at some point. If you do not have a proper bowel movement for just one day, do not think that you have constipation. If stool elimination occurs less than three times a week, then you might have constipation.
Reasons for Constipation
The main reason behind constipation is too much absorption of water by the large intestine. The colon's function is to absorb the excess water from the digested food entering the large intestine. But, if the colon absorbs too much water or if the muscle contraction of the colon, which allows the waste or the stool to reach the rectum, is slow, then the stool becomes hard and dry. Thus, you have difficulty in passing it out. Constipation also occurs due to improper diet. If your food intake does not consist of enough fiber, or you do not drink enough water, then you might suffer from this problem. Intestinal ailments, obviously, contribute to constipation.
Apple Juice to the Rescue!
Apples contain sorbitol, a type of sugar alcohol (not to be confused with the 'alcohol' in alcoholic beverages). Once sorbitol reaches the large intestine, it acts by drawing water into the colon, thereby making stools softer and easier to pass. The digestive system of an adult can process sorbitol easily, but babies can have trouble digesting it. Hence, administration of apple juice (ipso facto, sorbitol) to an infant should be strictly kept below 2 oz. Elderly people can also have problems due to sorbitol, and should consult their physician before ingesting it.
If you are suffering from mild constipation then, take an equal amount of fresh apple and pear juice as soon as you wake up in the morning and one hour before you go to sleep. Pear provides you with additional fibers and the minerals, vitamins and chemicals in it clean the colon, kidney and also regenerate blood cells.
If you have chronic constipation then, this is what you can go ahead with.
- Mix apple juice with prune juice and drink at least 3 to 4 glasses every day. If possible, drink fresh apple juice.
- But if you are not able to get fresh apple juice do not go for canned/bottled juice. Plastic containers are processed with the help of solvents which mix with the apple juice, making it harmful for you. Glass containers are a better option, although, in the first place, the artificial sugars in any processed juice negate the effect of sorbitol, making homemade natural juices the best option.
A fresh apple, eaten unskinned, facilitates bowel movements even more due to the high amount of dietary fiber found in the skin. But unskinned apples should always be washed and cleaned comprehensively, since most contain traces of pesticides.
Constipation in Babies and Infants
Did you know that even your baby may suffer from constipation? This will usually not happen in babies who are still breastfeeding, because breast milk can be digested completely, but when you start feeding solid foods, constipation problems might arise. Another reason your baby may be having constipation is having a diet which has low-fiber content. Excessive consumption of dairy products also causes constipation in infants.
It should, however, be remembered that a baby's undeveloped digestive system takes more time to process even the simplest of foods than an adult's fully developed one. The "3 bowel movements per week" norm is not strictly applicable to all babies.
If the infant goes several days without passing stool, though, give your child some (as mentioned earlier, not more than 2 oz.) apple juice. You should give apple juice and not applesauce, because while the former contains more sugar and fluid which acts as a reliever against constipation, the latter contains high amounts of pectin, which can cause the stools to firm up even more.
As is the case with anything good, too much consumption of apple juice leads to problems. While apple juice can relieve constipation, too much sorbitol can inhibit the colon's capacity to absorb water and cause diarrhea. The high oxalate content of an apple also means that kidney stones are more likely to develop. However, due to the high amounts of nutrients and dietary fiber they contain, apples are highly beneficial when consumed in moderation and should be consumed regularly for long-lasting health benefits.
As far as curing constipation is concerned, apart from apples, drinking a lot of water, including fibers in your diet and maintaining an exercise routine work towards preventing and, should the need arise, relieving constipation.